Few drinks are as refreshing as a shower beer. There’s something endlessly satisfying about cracking open a cold one while hot water beats down from the shower head. That’s why there’s an entire line of beers brewed specifically for shower drinking. That’s why Margot Robbie evangelizes about the power of the shower beer in interviews. But the idea that a shower beer is better than a normal beer isn’t just in your head, it’s science.
Heat and humidity make scents easier for people to detect. Scent is responsible for around 80 percent of the flavors you pick up, which means you experience a more intensely flavored beer in the shower than when not in the shower.
“Scents are more noticeable when temperature and humidity are higher because the vapor pressure is higher,” primary care physician Dr. Justin Holtzman tells Supercall. The scents you pick up are from molecular compounds in the air that you inhale. When it’s warmer, there’s more energy and the compounds move faster. “It oscillates more and is therefore more likely to make its way into the air and hit your nose receptor so you smell it.”
In short, a hot shower encourages more smells and more intense flavor. The heat and humidity from a shower won’t change what your tongue picks up—sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami—but it will enhance everything else. That “everything else” includes descriptors like orange, vanilla and pine. On a more scientific level, those notes are volatile compounds (for example vanillin, which smells like vanilla) that can be detected in small concentrations. Hot showers make the compounds more volatile, increasing the concentration.
It’s not just with beer. Everything tastes better in the shower. Johan Lundström, a scientist at the Monell Chemical Sense Center, spoke with NPR about shower oranges and credited the volatile compounds as well as an increase in the humidity surrounding the mucous membrane in the nasal cavity. Those two things working together made the “orange odor smell more in the mouth.”
Our noses also work more efficiently in warmer air. When we breathe in cold and dry air, our body brings it up to body temperature and humidifies it very quickly, Dr. Pamela Dalton from the Monell Chemical Sense Center told the Telegraph. “If it is doing that on its own, the other functions of smell and detection may take a back seat,” she said. “When the air is warmed and humidified, it is similar to what our body temperature would be. That is when the nose operates optimally.”